The 61-year-old dental hygienist in Florida will face the murder of a female marine graduate in 1984
The jury selection began Monday in the trial of a Florida dental hygienist accused in 1984 of strangling a female Marine recruit, and who has now been linked to another cold case murder in Hawaii.
Thomas Garner, 61, was arrested in March 2019 for the murder of 25-year-old Pamela Cahanes, his classmate at the Orlando Naval Training Center, after investigators tracked him down using the DNA testing service Parabon Nanolabs and the genealogy website GEDmatch.
Garner has pleaded not guilty to one count of first degree murder as a result of Cahanes’ death.
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Jury selection is underway in the trial of Thomas Garner, 61 (left) for the murder of Navy recruit Pamela Cahanes in 1984 (right)
Garner is also being investigated in connection with the September 1982 cold case murder of 25-year-old Kathy Hicks in Honolulu, Hawaii. Local police shared sketches of a man Hicks was last seen with before her death (photo above)
Meanwhile, Garner is also being investigated as a possible suspect in the unsolved murder of 25-year-old Kathy Hicks, whose body was found in a 1982 ditch in Honolulu, Hawaii. Click Orlando.com.
As of Monday morning, Garner has not been charged in connection with the Hicks case.
On August 5, 1984, two days after graduating from the naval academy in Orlando, Cahanes was found face down in her underwear in a yard of an empty house covered in blood. Her white uniform was found scattered around the area
Cahanes, one of eight Minnesota children, was severely beaten and strangled.
Investigators collected DNA evidence from Cahanes’s body, which was repeatedly submitted for testing but failed to produce a match.
Garner was arrested in Florida in March 2019 thanks to DNA testing and genetic genealogy
Cahanes was strangled and beaten to death two days after she graduated from the Orlando Naval Training Center in Florida (Cahanes second left with peers at graduation). She and Garner were both in the training center at the same time, although it is not clear how they ran into each other
A break in the case came in 2015, when DNA from sperm found on the victim’s underwear was submitted to the private forensic genealogy service GEDMatch, which determined that the sample was from someone of African descent.
By further testing on the DNA sample conducted in 2018, experts at Parabon NanoLabs were able to create the ‘family tree’ of the unknown suspect, ultimately leading authorities in Seminole County to Garner.
In 2019, agents followed Garner until they saw him throw various items in the trash can of his apartment complex, including a piece of used dental floss, a cigarette butt and a cotton swab. Orlando Sentinel.
Officers collected the items and sent them for testing to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab, which the researchers said returned a “ 100 percent ” match with the DNA found on Cahanes’ underwear.
The odds that the DNA belongs to someone other than Garner is 700 billion to one.
During an interview with police, Garner (far right) claimed he would not date recruits while serving in the Navy and would never have had sex with a white woman
Garner was arrested on March 13, 2019, but denied knowing Cahanes. During a police interview, the suspect, who is a black man, claimed that he would not date recruits while serving in the Navy and never have had sex with a white woman.
Garner has a clean criminal record, except for a battery charge while serving in the Navy.
A month before Garner’s trial for the murder of Cahanes in Florida was due to begin, detectives at the Honolulu Police Department filed for a warrant to obtain a DNA sample from him.
According to the court document, the Honolulu police investigating the 1982 murder of Kathy Hicks received a preliminary match of DNA entered into the Combined DNA Index System from Garner, as WFTV first reported.
Hicks was a Delta Airlines employee of Atlanta who visited Honolulu in September 1982 to attend a softball tournament.
Investigators said her body had been dumped in a ditch.
According to the search warrant, Hicks had told friends she was sitting with a few people in a bar near Hickam Air Force Base in Honolulu, now called Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
Hicks has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Cahanes, and he has not been charged with murdering Hicks
On September 19, 1982, two joggers discovered Hicks’s body dumped in a ditch. She had been beaten and strangled.
Witnesses provided sketches of a man she was last seen with, described as an African American mixed ethnicity, 5’11 “to 6” tall, about 150 to 160 lbs., Trimmed with black hair and brown eyes.
Garner was stationed in Hawaii from 1980 to October 29, 1982.
The murder of Cahanes joins a number of cold cases that may have been solved thanks to advances in modern DNA technology.
In August 2018, Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo was arrested for a dozen murders and 50 rapes that took place in the late 1970s and 1980s, after investigators used the online genealogy sites Ancenstry.com and 23andMe.
How Law Enforcers Use Popular Ancestral Websites To Track Down Cold Case Killers
Researchers across the country have embraced genetic genealogy, a DNA-dependent forensic technique that identifies suspects through their relatives.
The technique involves cross-references between the DNA profile of an unidentified suspect and public databases containing DNA from users who submitted samples to consumer companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry.com to examine their family tree and be informed of potential genetic health issues.
Genetic genealogy gained prominence through decades-old cold cases like the Golden State Killer, and the police are now using it for new cases as well.
While many are enthusiastic about what genetic genealogy means for the future of forensics, others have voiced concerns about genetic privacy and policies.